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Crook's Bridge - geograph.org.uk - 195875.jpg
Crook's Bridge, Wreay
Location: 54°49’55"N, 2°52’48"W
Local Government
Council: Carlisle

Wreay is a small village in Cumberland, close to the City of Carlisle, in that city's parish of St Cuthbert Without. Wreay stands by the River Petteril. The M6 motorway, A6 trunk road and West Coast Main Line railway all skirt the village.

The name "Wreay" is pronounced ˈriːə (ree-a).[1] It is of Anglo-Saxon origin. It is not though recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 since the village and the greater part of Cumberland was then part of Scotland.


The Millennium Stone and St Mary's

The parish church is St Mary's, which has in the churchyard a noted mausoleum, and a copy of the 7th-century Bewcastle Cross.

The communion table and apse

The church, designed and built in basilica form in 1840–42 by the local landowner Sara or Sarah Losh, exhibits an original style which she called "early Saxon or modified Lombard". It makes striking use of carved plant and animal motifs. As the church website points out, "St Mary’s embodies many of the attributes of the Arts and Crafts Movement and yet predates it by some 50 years."[2] The carvings embody symbolism that "refers to death, rebirth and eternity, drawing upon Christian, pagan and personal references.[3] It is a Grade II* listed building.[4]

The church replaced a small medieval chapel on a different site, which had become dilapidated by the 1830s.[5][6][7] Recent repairs and restoration of the church have involved relaying sandstone roof slabs, internal redecoration, installation of a new heating and lighting system and the construction of a new vestry. The church received a private visit from HRH Prince Charles in 2009.

Near the church is a Grade II listed mausoleum designed by Sara Losh and erected in 1850 in memory of her sister Katharine (1787–1817).[8] Plans to restore the Grade II chapel of rest designed by Sara Losh were announced in 2012.[9][10]

Next to the mausoleum is a Grade II listed reconstruction of the Saxon Bewcastle Cross, erected by Sara Losh around 1835, possibly in memory of her parents, John and Isabella Losh.[11] but with an inscription apparently referring to the recent loss of her sister.[12] Also by Sara Losh is the Grade II listed sexton's cottage.[13]


The chapel was recorded in William Hutchinson’s directory of Cumberland, published in 1738: "The chapel of Wrea, in the parish of St Cuthbert is as ancient, at least, as the reign of King Henry II, for in the year 1319 Bishop Halton allowed a chaplain to it to attend divine office on condition that he resided upon the place.... The chapelry consists of the villages of Wrea of 20 families and Newbiggin."[14]

An entry for the village appeared in 1870–72, in John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales: "WREAY, a chapelry in Carlisle-St. Mary parish, Cumberland; on the Lancaster and Carlisle railway, 5½ miles SSE of Carlisle. It has a post-office under Carlisle, and a r. station. Acres, 1,088. Real property, £1,967. Pop., 166. Houses, 31. The property is divided among a few. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of Carlisle. Value, £86.* Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle. The church was built in 1739 [sic; 1839?]. There is a partially endowed school."[15]

Scalesheugh Hall, which stands near the church, dates from 1746 and was enlarged in 1913–14. It now houses a residential home for cerebral palsy sufferers.[16] There is no physical evidence for the 1684 date over the archway to the farmhouse, and this may refer to references to the family. The house was built in 1913 to 1914 for John R Harrison by the Glasgow architect Alexander N Paterson.

There are the remains of a Roman fort at Park Farm House half a mile northeast of the village, to the west of the Roman road from York to Carlisle.

Visitors to the Plough on Shrove Tuesday 1790 were the local landowner and industrialist John Losh (died 1814), father of Sara and resident at the mansion of Woodside, three miles up the road, Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk, Losh's brother James, and his cousin Joseph Liddell. They began the custom of annually electing a Mayor of Wreay, but this was abolished 90 years later due to rowdyism.[17]

The Twelve Men of Wreay

Since the 1660s local trustees known as the Twelve Men of Wreay have met at the Plough Inn at Candlemas. Originally local landowners, they contributed to the upkeep of the church, appointed and paid the salary of the priest-cum-schoolmaster, and acted as guardians of the poor.

The Twelve, who second new members as required, still meet annually. Traditionally they would eat a meal of bread, cheese, oatcake, butter and ale, smoke long clay pipes, tell tales of bygone days, and sing songs.[18][19]

There is a path from the village to Wreay Woods Nature Reserve, a remnant of a much larger expanse of woodland alongside the River Petteril, managed by the local Wildlife Trust.[20]

Village flag

The village flag

In March 2015, the parish council adopted a village flag. This distinctive design was first devised in the 1980s, but with its bell-and pipes motif in the upper fly. The flag was reversed at the recommendation of the Flag Institute in 2015 for better visibility of the motif in the upper hoist.

The green field is for the verdant location of the village and the golden cross for the bold faith of Wreay. The pipes stand for the Twelve Men of Wreay, and the silvern bell has a place in village history also.

About the village

The village primary school has around 100 pupils.

The village has an equestrian centre.[21]

Wreay railway station, on what became the West Coast Main Line, opened in 1843 but closed in 1953.[22]

Village signpost

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Wreay)


  1. G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 164.
  2. St Mary's Church, Wreay. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  3. St Mary's Church, Wreay. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  4. British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  5. St Mary's Church, Wreay
  6. Uglow, Jenny (2012): The Pinecone (London: Faber) ISBN 978-0-571-269501
  7. Wreay on English Lakes
  8. Mausoleum at Wreay - British Listed Buildings
  9. BBC News report
  10. Mortuary Chapel of St Cuthbert Without - British Listed Buildings
  11. Cross in Wreay Churchyard - British Listed Buildings
  12. Matthews, S. 2007. Sarah Losh and Wreay Church; Bookcase, Carlisle
  13. Sexton's Cottage, St Cuthbert Without - British Listed Buildings
  14. [http://www.wreayplough.co.uk/history/ The Plough Inn}}
  15. A Vision of Britain through Time. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  16. Scalesceugh Hall - British Listed Buildings
  17. The Plough Inn...
  18. The Plough Inn
  19. BBC Local News, 15 May 2011 – "Village's 'Twelve Men of Wreay' charity continues work"
  20. Wreay Woods
  21. Greenlands Equestrian Centre
  22. R. V. J. Butt (1995): The Directory of Railway Stations (Sparkford, Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd). ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7.